Rachel Howard Der Kuss at Blain|Southern – Less, in terms of words, is so much more when it comes to the beauty found in the recently opened Rachel Howard show – “Blain|Southern presents an exhibition of Rachel Howard’s newest paintings and sculptures, focussing on internal and external violence, the violence of the mind and the body. The title Der Kuss, the kiss, suggests a delicate point of intimate contact, of love or betrayal…”
Less, in terms of words, is so much more when it comes to the the recently opened Rachel Howard show at the big Blain Southern gallery space just off the Bond Street end of Oxford Street in Hanover Square. That beautiful big room and those four very big paintings are such a relief after an afternoon of disappointing West End gallery visits. Blain Southern’s new show was the reason for being over in this part of town, we had hoped for more on the way though the west end streets, hoped for excitement at the Halcyon with Dale Chihuly? Something worth our words at Maddox Gallery or any of the other spaces lurking amongst the expensive clothes shops and the obscenely up-market car show rooms? There’s one big Ena Swansea piece at the Ben Brown gallery, there little else that really engages in the West End Galleries though (Lazinc and that JR show isn’t open today…)
Yes, there are two rooms, two very big white cubes housing the Rachel Howard exhibition, but that second one, that glimpse of the reds in the second room that demand attention straight away, the rest of it will need to be returned to on another day, those big red paintings are the things that excite today, nothing else is need besides those four big red paintings in that second room…
“The exhibition is divided into two rooms, in the first are paintings of grids and lines, disintegrated surfaces that hint at unstable worlds, entropy and collapse. There are also crashed planes here; based on everyday press images they reflect the relentless menace of death as depicted in the news. Howard suspends the image in a pastel haze, transmuting these snapshots into images of universal suffering, or perhaps they are self-portraits installed into a delicate afterlife, where we can look at them forever…”
The second room houses those four large abstract paintings that form the quartet titled On Violence (Spring), On Violence (Summer), On Violence (Autumn) and On Violence (Winter) (2017). one painting on each wall, surrounded by red, almost Rothko-like, nothing like Rothko of course, four big powerful paintings that have you in a soothing spin, that have you turning and turning, homing in, stepping out again, four intense red paintings, four calming tactile paintings, four very big paintings, four beautiful paintings, almost feeling like textile pieces, big hangings – layers, leaves, white hints in the red, things revealed, textures, subtle marks repeated beautifully, the room is alive, a whirl of spinning from one to another, four walls, four big pieces, words aren’t really needed, words can’t tell you about the spinning from one painting to the next, one season to the next, you don’t need words, you just need to go stand in that second room, just go straight to that second room, just find the time to go there yourself. this is why art excites, this is what’s so magical about paint, this is why it is so exciting to stand in a big room like this with the paint, the colour, nothing else is like a room alive with paintings to get lost in like this, nothing else does it like a room full of perfectly hung exciting engaging paintings …. (sw)
“In the second room are the four large abstract paintings that form the quartet titled On Violence (Spring), On Violence (Summer), On Violence (Autumn) and On Violence (Winter) (2017). On Violence is a reference to Hannah Arendt’s book that distinguishes between violence and power. When applied to Howard’s paintings the title takes on a new rhythmic force. Even as the seasons change, violence persists – even foregrounded – as if it were the driving force to all human history. Meanwhile, the seasons come around again, tucked away in brackets, powerless. The paintings start with a large curtain textile that the artist uses to push paint onto the canvas, revealing patterns, reapplying with varying intensities to create smudges and areas of pooled pigment. The seasons are demarcated subtly by the artist’s choice of pattern, which might vary within the same painting. For spring, we see figures from nursery rhymes, while summer is lush with flowers and leaves, and winter’s bare tendrils are more rigid and formal. For Howard ‘the pattern conjures an interior with a history…’ and alludes to the raw fragmented nature of memory, as the pattern is forced onto the surface, but then slips away or is erased. Howard says ‘We are presented with endless imagery, shorn off walls of homes in war zones exposing the intimate everyday environment within, broken walls of private spaces of supposed safety’…”Rachel Howard asks us to consider how memory can fix on banal imagery as a reference point for a dramatic or traumatic occurrences such as war. She questions what lies beyond the wallpaper, beyond the surface, beyond the fissures that so often open up in an otherwise unbroken layering of paint…”
Der Kuss is accompanied by a new publication featuring colour plates of artworks from 2013 – 2017, museum installation images, reference materials from the artist’s archive and texts by Darian Leader, Craig Burnett and poet Kate Dent.
The exhibition is concurrent with two of Rachel Howard’s solo museum exhibitions at
Newport Street Gallery, London, 21 February — 28 May 2018 and The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), 17 February 2018 — February 2019
Click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show..